Sunday, 13 February 2011

Are we missing the point?

As medicine continues to make great progress in the treatment of serious diseases there seems to be a disconnect with how healthy we are. Instead of living longer healthier lives we are living longer but with less years of full health.

A good illustration of this is the increase in the risk of breast cancer to one in eight from one in nine, according to recent figures from Cancer Research UK. Despite better medicine in detecting and treating these cancers they are sadly still becoming more common. I've included below the full list of risk factors for breast cancer but I think the main reason for the increased incidence is that our lifestyles are becoming increasingly unhealthy - we eat less well, get less fresh air and exercise, are exposed to way more toxins and electromagnetic radiation than ever before and assume that our doctor will cure us of any ills that they pick up as a result.

Instead we should all be cutting back on alcohol taking more exercise and eating a high fibre, low saturated fat diet. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, these simple changes could cut the risk of breast cancer by 42% and I know would reduce the incidences of lots of other serious diseases. In particular it's worth noting the statistic from Cancer Research that drinking as little as one alcoholic drink per day increases breast cancer risk by around 12%.

It's so simple and yet everyone still looks to science for a new break-through drug as the way to treat cancer .... I think this work is fantastic but there should be much more effort put into educating people on how to lead healthier lives to prevent them from contracting the disease in the first place.


These are indicators only and how they interact is difficult to predict. Women can do all the rights things and still get breast cancer. Likewise, women can do all the wrong things and never get the disease.

Family history: A woman with a mother, sister or daughter with breast cancer has around double the risk of getting it herself than a woman with no family history.

Obesity: Being overweight or obese is thought to increases the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by up to 30%, because excess body fat raises levels of hormones such as oestrogen and insulin - common features of cancers.

Age: the older the woman, the higher her risk. Women aged 50-69 are most at risk, particularly those who have a late menopause.

Childbirth: The younger a woman has children, the lower her risk. Having children at all cuts the risk, as does breastfeeding.

Lifestyle: regular physical exercise and a healthy diet helps reduce the risk by cutting dangerous fatty body tissues. Smoking is not advised.

HRT: women using hormone replacement therapy have a 66% increased risk of breast cancer but the risk is temporary, returning to that of a never-user within five years of stopping.

Oral contraceptives: they increase risk by around a quarter but since users are generally younger women, their risk is relatively low.

Alcohol: drinking as little as one alcoholic drink per day increases breast cancer risk by around 12%

Source: Cancer Research UK

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